Thursday, June 11, 2009

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy v. Kempthorne

Jun 10: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 07-2189. The appeal arises from the Interior Board of Land Appeals’ (IBLA or Board) determination that the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (WVHC) was not eligible for attorneys’ fees after prosecuting an administrative appeal to the IBLA. In the administrative appeal WVHC had challenged a decision of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) that rejected a citizen complaint filed by WVHC with the agency.

The appeal resulted in an IBLA remand order directing OSM to perform certain regulatory duties, including an investigation into whether it was required to reassert regulatory jurisdiction over a particular surface mining reclamation site pursuant to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).

After the IBLA denied WVHC’s petition for attorneys’ fees in connection with the appeal, WVHC sought review of the denial in district court. The district court granted summary judgment to WVHC, holding that WVHC was eligible for an award of fees under SMCRA’s fee-shifting provision. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court ruling.

Access the complete opinion (
click here).